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University Opera presents Verdi’s Falstaff, re-envisioned in Hollywood, 1930

As part of the worldwide commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, University Opera will present Verdi’s final masterpiece, Falstaff.  Based on material from The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry IV, and Henry V, Falstaff is a wild, comic romp.  In the UW-Madison production, updated to Hollywood in 1930, Falstaff is a has-been silent movie actor, out of work with the advent of the “talkies,” holding onto his former glory and living beyond his means at the Chateau Marmont.  Now a petty criminal, Falstaff puts the make on Alice Ford and Meg Page in an effort to bilk their husbands of money.  The ladies, incensed at his audacity, hatch a plot to give Falstaff his comeuppance.  But not before Mr. Ford, (a movie studio executive in the UW production) acting on his own ill-founded suspicions, gets involved and complicates matters.  At the end, all are reconciled as both men are taught their respective lessons.


Falstaff will be presented in Italian with English supertitles for three performances, November 11 at 7:30 pm, November 13 at 3:00 pm, and November 15 at 7:30 pm in Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus.  Directed by David Ronis with James Smith conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra, the production will involve over 90 UW singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew.  This production opens just one week after the national traveling exhibit of Shakespeare’s First Folio arrives at the Chazen Museum of Art.

Buy tickets here.

Following the success of the panel discussion before University Opera’s production of Transformations last spring, Ronis will again be assembling a panel of colleagues to discuss Falstaff on Friday, November 11 at 6:00pm in the Music Hall, admission free.  Featured panelists include:

Joshua Calhoun, Assistant Professor of English, UW-Madison

Cabell Gathman, Lecturer, Dept. of Gender and Women’s Studies, UW-Madison

Steffen Silvis, Dramaturg and Doctoral Candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, UW-Madison

David Ronis, Karen K. Bishop Director of University Opera, UW-Madison

Susan Cook, Pamela O. Hamel/Music Board of Advisors Director of the Mead Witter School of Music, Moderator

Paul Rowe, Professor of Voice at UW-Madison, will sing the title role amidst a cast featuring current students and a couple of guest alums.  The principal ladies’ roles will be filled by Yanzelmalee Rivera and Sarah Kendall (Alice Ford), Courtney Kayser and Talia Engstrom (Meg Page), Emily Weaver and Claire Powling (Nannetta), Rebecca Buechel and Jessica Kasinski (Quickly).  The men in the cast will be alum Brian Schnieder and guest artist Richard Schonberg (Ford), José Muñiz (Fenton), Wesley Dunnagan (Dr. Caius), Jiabao Zhang (Bardolfo) and alum Benjamin Schultz (Pistola).  Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor, with musical preparation by new professor of opera and vocal coaching, Dr. Daniel Fung, Chan Mi Jean, and chorus master, Christopher Boveroux.

The physical production will be designed by Greg Silver.  Costume design is by Sydney Krieger, and Hyewon Park, lighting design by Kenneth Ferencek, props design by David Heuer, and the production stage manager will be Alec Brown.  The production staff include Erin Bryan, operations manager for University Opera; Jimmy Dewhurst and Daniel Lewis, master electricians; and Ethan White, lighting board operator.

Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”). Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings.  Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.  The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact opera@music.wisc.edu. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.


The Music of Franz Schubert
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Fischer & Lutes present a third “Schubertiade”

In homage to a beloved composer, the UW-Madison School of Music will present its third annual Schubertiade, an evening of songs, piano duets and chamber music by Franz Schubert, one day before the composer’s 219th birthday.

The concert will take place on Saturday evening, January 30, 2016 at 8 p.m. in Mills Concert Hall. The concert is hosted by pianist Martha Fischer, who is professor of collaborative piano and piano at the School of Music, and her pianist husband Bill Lutes, emeritus artist-in-residence. Alumna soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine, who has sung with many major opera companies including Wolftrap in Washington, D.C., the Santa Fe Opera, the Minnesota Opera, as well as Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera and Madison Opera, will be a guest soloist. Guarrine now teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Martha Fischer & Bill Lutes

Martha Fischer & Bill Lutes

Schubert was born on January 31, 1797, in Himmelpfortgrund, near Vienna in Austria, and died at age 31, yet in that short span managed to write some 600 works for the voice, seven symphonies, operas, chamber music, and much more. He influenced many composers, including Mendelssohn, Liszt, Brahms, and Schumann, and is now considered one of the most important composers of the late Classical and early Romantic eras.

Fischer’s and Lutes’s association with Schubert dates from their time as graduate students at the New England Conservatory of Music, where they discovered the composer and each other simultaneously. They married in 1984.

Schubertiades, which were popular during Schubert’s lifetime, were homey Viennese “house concerts” featuring the composer, fellow musicians and friends that offered music performances, dancing and carousing, often until dawn. At the School of Music, performers and patrons will be on stage together, seated in chairs and on sofas, to attempt to mimic the “house concert” style. For the first time, a public reception will be held afterwards.

The program will include a major work for piano duet, the Allegro in A minor, known as “Lebensstürme” or Life’s Storms, performed by Fischer and Lutes. Guarrine will sing one of Schubert’s final works, the delightful “Shepherd on the Rock,” along with Fischer and clarinet faculty Wesley Warnhoff.

Additional guests will include UW-Madison voice faculty Mimmi Fulmer and Paul Rowe; current University Opera director David Ronis; alumni singers Daniel O’Dea and Benjamin Schultz; current DMA candidate Sara Guttenberg; soprano Marie McManama; UW-Madison horn faculty Daniel Grabois; UW-Madison faculty violinist Soh-hyun Park Altino; UW-Madison faculty violist Sally Chisholm; adjunct professor of clarinet Wesley Warnhoff; alumnus cellist Ben Ferris; and Parry Karp, faculty cellist.

“The overarching idea for this year’s Schubertiade is music inspired by the motions and movements of the natural world, especially water, wind, and woodlands, forests and trees,” says Lutes. “The poems that Schubert chose for his lieder often feature vivid and evocative imagery from nature, while exploring our human emotional and spiritual responses to the natural world. As Schubert is moved by the natural world, we listeners are moved in turn by the sublime ‘nature music’ of his songs and instrumental works.”

Accordingly, the concert will offer one of Schubert’s best loved “water” songs, “Die Forelle” (The Trout) as well as the Theme and Variations movement derived from this song from the famous “Trout” Quintet for piano and strings.

This concert and future Schubertiades are being graciously underwritten by Ann Boyer.

Tickets are $15.00 for adults. Students of all ages are free.

Tickets are available through the Union Theater Box Office. Patrons may buy online ($4 fee) or save the fee and buy in person at Memorial Union or in Mills lobby day of show.

Please note: We recommend that patrons arrive early, both to secure a parking spot and to buy a ticket. Parking will be tight due to UW hockey, but parking passes may be ordered in advance to guarantee a space.

Options include H.C. White Garage (Lot 6); Fluno Center (Lot 83); University Avenue Ramp (Lot 20). VISA is accepted.

Complete this online request form or call the Special Events Office at (608) 262-8683. Please allow two weeks for processing. In the box for “special instructions,” please indicate “Schubertiade.”

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University Opera presents The Marriage of Figaro: Oct. 23-27

University Opera presents The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart and da Ponte’s masterpiece of comedy and intrigue

After the unprecedented success of last spring’s sold-out run of The Magic Flute, this fall, University Opera will present four performances of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.  This new production will be directed by returning interim opera director, David Ronis, and James Smith will conduct the UW Symphony Orchestra.  The production will involve over 80 UW singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew.

The opera will be performed in Italian with projected English supertitles in the Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall, on Friday, October 23 at 7:00pm, Saturday, October 24 at 7:00pm, Sunday, October 25 at 3:00pm, and Tuesday, October 27 at 7:00pm.


The Marriage of Figaro was the first of Mozart’s collaborations with the formidable librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, and shows both geniuses at the height of their powers.  Da Ponte based his libretto on Pierre Beaumarchais’ seminal play of the same title.  With its topical references and oblique indictment of the French aristocracy, the play was considered scandalous when it opened in 1784.  Although Da Ponte and Mozart’s version, written two years later, keenly depicts the underlying tension between the sexes and social classes, it focuses less on the period’s political issues and more on the complex humanity of its characters.  Mozart and da Ponte’s Figaro, which provides insight into the tenuousness of human relationships via hilarious situational comedy, is at once an eminently delightful, yet profoundly moving work.  Mozart’s brilliant score mirrors the complex world it depicts.  Full of stunning arias and intricate yet transparent ensembles, Figaro is one of the crowning achievements of one of the world’s great artists.

James Smith

James Smith. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

Although written before Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro represents the continuation of that story.  In Figaro, Count Almaviva, having married Rosina, has taken to philandering.  His downtrodden wife conspires with Figaro, now his valet, and Figaro’s bride-to-be, Susanna, the Count’s current amorous target, to teach him a lesson.  In the process, all of the relationships in the opera are called into question and undergo both subtle and not so subtle changes.  All is resolved in the end when the Countess’s love and devotion wins out as she is reunited with her repentant husband.

Viewing Figaro as a work that is intimately tied to the 18th-century, Director Ronis has assembled a design team to create a traditional setting for the production.  But he also sees it as a piece with tremendous relevance today.  “Even though it can be difficult for modern audiences to relate to men in frock coats and women in hoop skirts, by realistically focusing on the characters’ joys, pains, and struggles, it is possible to deliver messages of The Marriage of Figaro in a way that is both entertaining and meaningful in the 21st century,” he says.

The large cast of The Marriage of Figaro includes Joel Rathmann and alumnus Benjamin Schultz, who will split performances of the title role; Erin Bryan and Anna Whiteway as Susanna; Brian Schneider and Gavin Waid as Count Almaviva; and Anna Polum and Yanzelmalee Rivera as the Countess.  The role of Cherubino will be split between Alaina Carlson and Kirsten Larson.  In supporting roles, the production will feature Tia Cleveland and Meghan Hilker as Marcellina, alum Thomas Weis as Bartolo, Dennis Gotkowski and Fabian Qamar as Basilio, Kyle Connors and Mikko Utevsky as Antonio, Emi Chen and Emily Weaver as Barbarina, Todd Keller and Jiabao Zhang as Don Curzio.

Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor; Professor John Stowe, harpsichord continuo; Andrew Briggs, cello continuo; Chan Mi Jean and Kangwoo Jin, musical preparation; and Sara Guttenberg, chorus master.

The production will be designed by Dana Fralick, scenery and props; John Frautschy, lighting; Hyewon Park and Sydney Kreiger, costumes; and Jan Ross, wigs.  The production stage manager will be Isabel Karp and the assistant director, Elisheva Pront.  Additional student staff includes Sarah Kunath, master electrician, and Emi Chen, costume assistant.

Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”). Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings.  Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.

The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact opera@music.wisc.edu. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at www.music.wisc.edu/

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“Brass Fest II” to feature eclectic mix of jazz and folk vocals, solo trumpet, and works for brass quintet

From October 9 to 11, the UW-Madison School of Music will present its second brass music festival, following a spirited event last year that was enthusiastically received by students and the community.

This year, “Brass Fest II” has added a vocalist to the mix: a Norwegian singer who mixes jazz tunes with pop and folk music from the Middle East, Bulgaria, Spain and India. The three-day festival will also features two brass quintets and a solo trumpeter.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”1″ gal_title=”Brass”]

The festivals showcase the energetic, eclectic world of brass music, says festival organizer John Aley, professor of trumpet at UW-Madison and principal trumpeter of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. “We benefited from creative energy last year that continues to impact positively in the School of Music,” says Aley. “The performances will showcase some amazing talent and innovation including the surprising and delightful synergy of brass plus voice.”

On the docket this year:

Friday, October 9: Axiom Brass Quintet, 8 PM, Mills Hall. This lively Chicago quintet features repertoire ranging from jazz and Latin music to string quartet transcriptions, as well as original compositions for brass quintet.  Friday’s concert will offer an Elizabethan suite, “The Art of the Fugue” by J.S. Bach, and brass quintet works by Victor Ewald, David Sampson, and Patrice Caratini.

Axiom Brass is an Ensemble-in-Residence at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and at Chicago’s Rush Hour Concerts. They are winners of the Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition (2012), the Preis der Europa-Stadt Passau in Germany (2012), the 2008 International Chamber Brass Competition and prize-winners of the 2010 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, the Plowman Chamber Music Competition, and the Jeju City International Brass Quintet Competition in South Korea. Axiom Brass is comprised of Dorival Puccini, Jr., trumpet; Jacob DiEdwardo, horn; Kevin Harrison, tuba; Serdar Cizmeci, trombone; and Kris Hammond, trumpet.

Saturday, October 10: Festival Brass Choir with the Axiom Brass Quintet, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, trumpeter Adam Rapa, vocalist Elisabeth Vik, and students/faculty of the School of Music. 8 PM, Mills Hall. Conducted by Scott Teeple, professor of music and wind ensemble conductor. The concert will include works by Astor Piazzolla, James M. Stephenson, Anthony DiLorenzo, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and a Bulgarian vocal work sung by Ms. Vik.

The Norwegian-born vocalist Elisabeth Vik was classically trained by Norwegian opera singer Rolf Nykmark, then moved on to study commercial music and music business at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in England. She received a bachelors degree in pop-music performance, then moved to New York City. She has traveled the world gathering and learning techniques and musical expressions, giving her sound and stylings hints of Indian, Arabic, Spanish, Bulgarian as well as Norwegian flavors, superimposed upon a classical technique and an affinity for jazz.

American Adam Rapa is a dynamic performer, composer, producer and educator known for the excitement, energy and enthusiasm he brings to stages and classrooms around the world. Rapa has been featured as a special guest artist and clinician at trumpet conferences around the globe including the International Trumpet Guild conference, the National Trumpet Competition, and festivals in dozens of countries around the world. Adam performed and/or recorded with Grammy Award winners Nicholas Payton and Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Doc Severinsen, Soulive, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Reed, Jason Moran, Robert Glasper, Cyrus Chestnut, Jorge Pardo, Mnozil Brass, Belgian Brass, Alice in Chains, Academy Award winning film composer A.R. Rahman, and many others. Now living and freelancing in Copenhagen, Rapa plays lead trumpet in the Danish Radio Big Band and also performs with members of the Afro-Cuban All-Stars.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet, formed in 1972, is a faculty ensemble in residence at the UW-Madison. In addition to performing with the WBQ, the players have also been members of the American Brass Quintet, Empire Brass Quintet and Meridian Arts Ensemble. Current members include Tom Curry, tuba; Mark Hetzler, trombone; Daniel Grabois, horn; John Aley, trumpet; and Matthew Onstad, trumpet.

Sunday, October 11: Duo recital with trumpet soloist Adam Rapa, vocalist Elisabeth Vik, and musicians from the School of Music. 7:30 PM, Mills Hall.  Based in Denmark, the duo offers a creative blend of classical and jazz, melding traditional and modern repertoire with a Latin sizzle. Works will include the Carmen Suite by George Bizet, Så Skimrande Var Aldrig Havet by Evert Taube, arranged by Rapa & Vik, Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla arranged by Rapa, and Anitras Dance by Edvard Grieg, arranged by Vik & Rapa.

Tickets for the Friday and Saturday concerts are $15 for adults, free for students and children. Sunday’s concert is free to all.

Buy tickets to both concerts and save!

BrendaRaeHiRez-2955-xretLOW REZ
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Rising Opera Sensation Brenda Rae Returns to Madison to support University Opera

Brenda Rae, a School of Music voice alumna whose 2013 U.S. operatic debut in the Santa Fe Opera’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s  “La Traviata” received high praise from the New York Times, will star this September in a major fundraising concert for University Opera.

“Ms. Rae soared beautifully in the early going, but it was in her pianissimo singing that she really shone,” wrote James R. Oestreich, of Brenda’s role as Violetta, the high-class prostitute dying of consumption.

Listen to Brenda sing the role of Semele at the Seattle Opera.

Brenda Rae, an Appleton native, earned a bachelor’s degree in voice from the School of Music in 2004 followed by a master’s degree and artist’s diploma from The Juilliard School. She then moved to Europe where she has performed regularly in Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin and many other cities.

The three-day event will celebrate the newly created position of Director of University Opera, funded by the recently established Karen K. Bishop Fund.  Karen Bishop was the founder of Rainbow Play Systems, makers of playground equipment, but sold it in 2003 to pursue her first love, opera. She gained masters and doctoral degrees at UW-Madison, and prior to her death in January 2015 after a struggle with cancer, she asked her husband Charlie Bishop to support the university opera program.

Charlie Bishop’s initial gift of $500,000 was coupled with several hundred thousand dollars raised by local supporters, including several individual member donations and a joint board donation from Opera Props, a local support group, as well as a bequest from the estate of Margaret Winston, another longtime benefactor who died in September 2014. With Bishop’s pledge, the fund secured a dollar-for-dollar matching grant from the John and Tashia Morgridge Foundation to create the Karen K. Bishop Fund for the Director of University Opera.

This fall, the School of Music will initiate a national search for a permanent opera director.

The public portion of the three-day University Opera event includes a ticketed concert on Sunday, Sept. 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall and a free master class on September 25. The program with the UW Symphony Orchestra includes the Concerto for Coloratura Soprano by Reinhold Glière, to be sung by Ms. Rae, La Mer by Claude Debussy, and Symphonic Dances by Sergei Rachmaninoff.  The public is invited to a reception following the concert. Tickets are $25, available through the Memorial Union box office. Students are admitted free.

While at UW-Madison, Brenda Rae won the annual Concerto Competition and performed leading roles with University Opera including Constance in “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” Despina in “Cosi fan tutte,” and Nannetta in “Falstaff.”

“It was thrilling to hear a singer with Brenda’s towering vocal attributes at the beginning of her career,” says Mimmi Fulmer, professor of voice and opera, who was Brenda’s teacher at UW-Madison.

Brenda Rae, who dropped the last name Klinkert after leaving Wisconsin, was also featured in a 2014 article in the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s magazine, Opera News, following her performance in Santa Fe.  “Rae proved her prima donna mettle in Santa Fe last summer, when she knocked local opera fans back on their heels with her superb Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, presented in a revival of Laurent Pelly’s edgy modern-dress staging from 2009,” the author, F. Paul Driscoll, wrote. “Rae bounded into the action of Act I with a fashion model’s lanky hauteur, her strikingly pale shoulders marked with a red floral tattoo, and sang as if her life depended on it.”

In the article, Brenda remembered her time at the School of Music.

“Before I was at Juilliard, when I was a student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, I hadn’t really decided to focus on classical voice,” she said. “But my teachers there were pretty smart. By the end of my sophomore year, they had given me a scene from Sonnambula to do. And I fell in love with opera.”

The University Opera program was established in the early 1960s with Karlos Moser as director. Moser retired in 1997 and was followed by William Farlow, who retired in 2014.  The position is now filled by David Ronis, visiting assistant professor of opera.

Graduates have included current Broadway star Nathaniel Stampley; Gregory Schmidt, now with the Metropolitan Opera; Jamie-Rose Guarrine, who will join the faculty of University of Massachusetts-Amherst this fall; James Kyrshak, who recently joined the Vienna State Opera; and Emily Birsan, currently performing with the Ryan Center of Chicago’s Lyric Opera, as well as many others.


For more information, please email Katherine Esposito or call 608.263.5615.





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Morgridge Fund and Private Opera Bequests combine to secure permanent endowment for University Opera

Cancer claims Karen Bishop, but husband carries out her wishes

by Katherine Esposito

It takes a big heart to pour oneself into a operatic solo, in front of a live audience, roles always edged with varying shades of emotion, all guaranteed to be intense.

For Karen K. Bishop, who returned to school at UW-Madison in her late 40s to gain master’s and doctoral degrees in opera, those emotions were only too real.

Karen Krieger Bishop

Karen Krieger Bishop

Bishop received a music degree in 1981 from Wheaton Conservatory of Music in Illinois, but decided to pursue her entrepreneurial interests, founding Rainbow Play Systems of South Central Wisconsin, retailers of playground equipment. In 1987, she married Charlie Bishop, who completed a postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry at UW-Madison in the early 1980s. They had two children. Bishop sold the business in 2003 and turned her thoughts again to music.

She enrolled at the UW-Madison School of Music and became friends with much-younger Benjamin Schultz, then gaining his doctoral degree in opera. With Schultz, now assistant director of the school, the two talked and laughed and studied opera together.  She was singing and researching lost art songs of Ernst Bacon and John Duke. He was writing a book on Polish diction. They bought coffee on State Street and co-starred in a show. “She was hungry for knowledge,” Schultz said. “She followed her heart.”

What Schultz didn’t know is the reason why Bishop had sold her thriving business and entered the opera program. She had breast cancer, which was diagnosed in the mid-1990s and, in January, finally claimed her life. She was 54.

Very few people knew. That’s as she wished.  Now, her husband, Charlie, has acceded to another wish of Karen’s: to support the University Opera program.  He has joined community supporters and the local support group, UW Opera Props, to further a fund-raising campaign to “Go All In” to secure an endowed directorship for University Opera by pledging $500,000 to establish the Karen K. Bishop Fund for the Director of University Opera. That role has been temporarily filled by visiting opera director David Ronis. Ronis replaced William Farlow, who retired in 2014.

Bishop’s donation will be coupled with several hundred thousand dollars recently raised by local supporters of the opera program, including several individual member donations and a joint board donation from Opera Props, and a bequest from the estate of Margaret Winston, another longtime benefactor who died last September. With Bishop’s pledge, the fund has secured a dollar-for-dollar matching grant from the John and Tashia Morgridge Foundation, creating an endowed professorship and a lasting footing for the popular and successful program, which offers one of the few opera master’s degrees in the nation. Graduates have included current Broadway star Nathaniel Stampley; Gregory Schmidt, now with the Metropolitan Opera; Jamie-Rose Guarrine, who will join the faculty of University of Massachusets-Amherst this fall; James Kyrshak, who recently joined the Vienna State Opera; and Emily Birsan, currently performing with the Ryan Center of Chicago’s Lyric Opera.

It’s hard to overstate the value of the donations to the School of Music. The new Bishop Fund represents a “transformative opportunity,” said Prof. Mimmi Fulmer, with whom both Bishop and Schultz studied.  “University Opera will, for the first time, be able to plan for the future with a solid financial foundation,” she added.

Reached at his office in Miami, Florida, Charlie Bishop said that Karen was firm about her wishes. “We spoke of her desires,” he said. “She wanted to support University Opera and the School of Music. So, I made a commitment to make sure that that happened. It would make Karen happy to know that she had a positive impact on the School of Music that she admired so much.”

Bishop added that he hopes the new fund will raise the profile of University Opera and UW-Madison more generally.

“I often wonder if people in Madison realize how remarkable an achievement it is for students to mount two full opera productions every year,” he said. “It’s tremendously difficult. Professional organizations struggle.  But UW does it masterfully.”

“[The program] offers unsurpassed opportunities for vocal performance and to study operatic compositions by leading composers.”


Save the Date!

Sunday, September 27: Special Fundraising Concert with Brenda Rae, a rising opera star and alumna of the UW-Madison School of Music and The Juilliard School. Brenda will sing the Glière Concerto for Coloratura Soprano, op. 82, with the UW Symphony Orchestra. 7:30 p.m., Mills Hall. Tickets $25, on sale July 15 at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office.

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David Ronis brings theatrical flair to University Opera

David Ronis, the visiting director of University Opera at the UW-Madison School of Music, doesn’t want his opera singers to just “park and bark” their arias. He wants them to truly express the various hidden narrative levels of the opera’s libretto and musical score.

In short, he wants them to act as actors do.

It’s not a new idea, Ronis says. In fact, he says, the overall trend in opera over the last 30 years has been for opera singers to develop acting skills as keen as their vocal ones–and he considers himself to be part of that movement.

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

At one point, working in this way was a departure for Ronis himself. He’d been singing professionally in opera for years before he landed a job in the Los Angeles company of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, where he suddenly was surrounded by actors with real technique. After three years there he returned to New York and began to study acting seriously and added acting jobs – spoken theater, commercials, and independent films – to his resume.

It was life-changing. He began to look at operatic acting with new eyes, and discovered he was a bit embarrassed by the quality of much of the work that he saw.

“So I joined some friends – other teachers and directors – whose mission in life was to train opera singers to become better actors,” Ronis says. “And my background, being a singer myself as well as a trained actor, has facilitated that. So that’s what I work on now: how to use yourself, your imagination, your emotions, and your body, to act the story more effectively.”

For Albert Herring, this season’s University Opera production and Ronis’s first at UW-Madison, that means detailed stage work. “Comedy is harder than drama,” he says. “When you’re singing an aria about how lonely you are and how you want to commit suicide, it usually has a slower, more sustained inner tempo. Although the emotions are intense, it doesn’t require the same kind of technical skill as comedy.”

“In comedy, things happen quickly. Characters exchange thoughts, react to each other, and things are constantly bouncing back and forth,” he continues.  “So we’re spending a lot of time working on those interchanges, and how they manifest in action. The trick is to do it cleanly and with proper timing.”

What does Ronis find funny? “I love comedy that arises out of situation,” he says. “The first time I saw the play Noises Off, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I also have a few favorite standup comedians – Chris Rock, Kathy Griffin, Louis CK – as well as few sitcoms like ’30 Rock’ that I think are deeply funny. The classic TV comedies from the 50s and 60s are fantastic! Yesterday, in rehearsal, I found myself saying to one of the students, ‘Okay, you’re Lucy! This is a Lucy moment!’ ”

Did they have any idea what you were talking about? “They did! Yes!”

Learn more about University Opera’s Albert Herring, including how to buy tickets.

We asked David to tell us a bit more about this background and his plans for the UW-Madison School of Music. Here’s his response.

Q: Welcome to Madison, David! You’re such a New Yorker – how does it feel to be in the Midwest?

A: I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time in the Midwest. When I was actively performing, I sang all over the country, frequently spending a good month or more in a given city. So I got pretty comfortable living outside of New York. I’ve been to Wisconsin a number of times – I sang at both the Skylight and Florentine Opera companies as well as on tour with the New York City Opera National Company in Madison (at the Oscar Mayer Theater) And also in Platteville!

Q: Did you have any connections with the School of Music before you came here?

A: Yes, my good friends Paul and Cheryl Rowe have been here for 16 years. Paul is on the voice faculty and Cheryl is a terrific singer and voice teacher in her own right. It was Paul and Cheryl who encouraged me to apply for the interim position. And I’m glad they did!

Q: What are your plans this year for University Opera?

A: Well, we’ve selected two shows that I think are perfect for the UW students and for the community. In October, we’re doing Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring and in March, Mozart’s masterpiece, The Magic Flute. Albert Herring is a terrific comedy with a social message or two that’s truly an ensemble piece. Technically, it’s a chamber opera, because the orchestra consists of only 13 players.

Albert Herring is also a perfect piece for the intimate Music Hall at UW-Madison which seats 380. Grand opera it isn’t. What it is, is a terrific opportunity for young singers and instrumentalists to develop their skills and put on an entertaining, meaningful work. We’re very happy to bring this piece to the Madison community. The conductor for Albert Herring is Kyle Knox, a remarkably talented graduate student, studying with orchestra conductor James Smith. It’s been a delight collaborating with Kyle on this project and I look forward to working with Jim in the spring.

I actually have a special connection with this work. When I was a young singer, I had the opportunity to travel to the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh, England in order perform the title role of Albert Herring as well as to study it with Peter Pears, the original Albert. It was a minimal workshop production, directed by Eric Crozier, Britten’s librettist, and Nancy Evans, another original cast member, yet quite memorable for me. I’m very happy to share my one degree of separation from the creation of the work with UW students. It was fantastic to do Albert Herring in the part of England where it not only takes place, but where Britten, Pears, Crozier and the English Opera Group lived and worked.

The spring production, The Magic Flute, will be sung in German with English dialogue. Since we have a full orchestra for the spring production, I wanted to do a piece that had a fairly large cast and chorus, thus offering lots of opportunities for UW students to perform. The Magic Flute is the perfect piece – well-loved and family friendly. One of our missions is to develop new, young audiences, and this opera goes a long way to accomplish that task. We look forward to bringing this work to the Music Hall.

Q: As a Visiting Assistant Professor with a one-year appointment, how do you see your role, as far as continuing and developing University Opera?

A: It’s an interesting position to be in. This is truly a year of transition for University Opera. After 16 successful years under William Farlow, I want to make sure that the program continues to grow and develop. One year is long enough to begin a few new initiatives that will hopefully be continued in the years to come. At the top of my list are the program’s educational priorities – to provide ways to help students develop their skills and to provide performance opportunities for them. In order to involve as many students as possible in the program, we’ve double cast some roles in Albert Herring and I’m expecting to do the same in The Magic Flute. As part of the Opera Workshop class (which produces an Opera Scenes program twice a year in addition to the mainstage productions), I’ve started teaching an Acting for Singers class. Seeing that my personal mission has been to develop better acting standards among opera singers, I’m excited to have the opportunity to help the students with their stage skills. Also, pursuing the part of the mission of University Opera that values community service, I would like to reach out to various arts and civic groups, both on campus and off, to see what kinds of collaborations may be possible – connections that would be mutually beneficial.

Q: Do you have any other observations regarding University Opera or the School of Music in general?

A: Well, I continue to be impressed with the students. They seem hungry for knowledge and to develop their skills. As a group, they are very hard working, and I think that you’ll see the results in performance. Susan Cook, the Director of the School of Music, Ben Schultz, the Assistant Director, and the other administrative staff have been very welcoming and helpful as I adjust to new systems and procedures. Likewise the School of Music faculty members I’ve met. I’m very happy to be among this group and look forward to an exciting year!




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UW-Madison showcases Brass, Jazz, and Composers in 2014-15 Music Festivals

Brass, jazz and three composers–American George Crumb, Cecilia McDowall of the United Kingdom, and France’s Jean-Philippe Rameau — will be showcased this year at the UW-Madison School of Music in the form of five multi-event guest artist festivals, starting in October and continuing through April. Funding is provided by the Vilas Trust and Anonymous Fund at UW-Madison. We thank them for their support.

Other notable events will include an eight-concert faculty/student “Showcase Series” series, presenting some of the most dynamic music that the School has to offer. Click here for Showcase info.

Some events are ticketed (click here for info). Tickets will go on sale one month ahead of time. All other events at the School of Music, including dozens of faculty recitals, student ensembles and individual guest artists, continue to be free.

Oystein Baadsvik

Oystein Baadsvik

Our 2014-15 festivals include:

“Celebrate Brass”
Wednesday, October 8 — Monday, October 13, 2014

Brass music is often known for its swagger, but it is also famous for delicate polyphonies and burnished tones. We invite the public to experience the beauty of brass first-hand at a festival featuring both a full array of music and musicians, many at the height of their careers.

Performers will include famed Norwegian tubist Øystein Baadsvik, the only musician to have created a career as a tuba soloist, rather than becoming a member of an orchestra or accepting a teaching post. His multi-faceted musical career as a soloist, chamber musician and recording artist has taken him all over the world. Øystein Baadsvik’s international career began in 1991 when he was awarded two prizes at the prestigious Concours International d’Exécution Musicale in Geneva.

Baadsvik will be joined by hornist Jessica Valeri (BM, UW-Madison, 1997) of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Michigan’s Western Brass Quintet, UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Brass Quintet, renowned brass composer and blogger Anthony Plog, new UW-Madison faculty tubist Tom Curry, as well the best brass players and conductors at the University, including a Brass Choir led by conductor Scott Teeple.

Events will include concerts, solo recitals, masterclasses, brass coachings, a colloquium and a reception.
Click here for full schedule.

The 4th Annual UW-Madison/Madison Metropolitan School Jazz Festival
Wednesday, December 3 — Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ingrid Jensen in Brooklyn, NY. June 2005photo by Angela Jimenez

Ingrid Jensen

A festival featuring workshops and performances for college and high school jazz performers. This marks the first time that UW-Madison will host the event.

This festival will feature Ingrid Jensen, trumpeter, bandleader, artist-in-residence at the University of Michigan and part-time faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory. Ingrid Jensen has been a major figure on the international jazz scene for over 20 years. Her three CDs for the ENJA label and her latest CD, “At Sea,” won her nominations from the Canadian Juno Awards, including an award in 1995 for Vernal Fields. In addition to her work as a leader of the quartet Project O and the quintet Nordic Connect, Jensen is a featured soloist with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, with whom she recorded four albums, including the Grammy Award-winning “Concert in the Garden” and “Sky Blue,” the former of which was also named Jazz Album of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Jensen is a member of the Mosaic project with Terri-Lynn Carrington, Esperanza Spaulding and Geri Allen; the Darcy James Argue’s Grammy-nominated Secret Society; the Juno-award winning Christine Jensen Orchestra; has been featured on Gil Evans’ Porgy and Bess at the San Francisco Jazz Festival, under the direction of Maria Schneider; and has appeared as a guest in the festival’s “Tribute to Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard”, alongside Terence Blanchard, Eddie Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson and Kenny Garrett.

The festival will include master classes in jazz trumpet and improvisation, open rehearsals, a Saturday high school clinic, and performances with UW jazz ensembles and high school big bands from Madison and Middleton.

This festival is free and open to the public.
Click here for full schedule.

“Seventy Degrees Below Zero”: A concert series and residency showcasing the music of British composer Cecilia McDowall
Friday, February 19 through Sunday, February 23, 2015

In 2009, after premiering a McDowall work, “Framed,” UW-Madison trumpet professor John Aley discovered for himself what he describes as the “challenging, energizing, poetic, clever, tongue in cheek, and utterly beautiful” music of Cecilia McDowall.

Cecilia McDowall

Cecilia McDowall

Our festival, organized by Aley, will feature the first-ever United States residency of British composer Cecilia McDowall and the US premiere of her symphonic work “Seventy Degrees Below Zero,” commissioned by the City of London Sinfonia and the Scott Polar Research Institute, based in Cambridge, England.

Often inspired by extra-musical influences, McDowall’s writing combines a rhythmic vitality with expressive lyricism. She has won many awards and has been short-listed several times for the British Composer Awards. Her music has been commissioned and performed by leading choirs, including the BBC Singers, ensembles and at major festivals both in Britain and abroad and has been broadcast on BBC Radio and worldwide.

“Seventy Degrees Below Zero” is a cantata for solo voice (to be sung by faculty tenor Jim Doing) and orchestra, inspired by a phrase written by British captain Robert Falcon Scott to his wife, prior to his death while returning from an expedition to the South Pole: ‘Dear, it is not easy to write because of the cold – 70 degrees below zero.’ ”

Joining us on Saturday will be Michael DuVernois of the UW-Madison IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center, only recently returned from the Antarctic, who will present an entertaining and educational talk, complete with historic and modern photographs, on the progression of Antarctic exploration from the heroic age through modern science on the coldest, highest, driest continent.

Other works to be performed during the three-day festival include the first US performances of “Regina Caeli,” for four trumpets and four trombones, and “Cavatina at Midnight,” for clarinet, cello and piano. Her haunting choral works “Ave Regina” and “Ave Maris Stella” will be performed by the UW Chamber Choir, directed by Bruce Gladstone. In addition to Jim Doing, faculty performers will include pianists Christopher Taylor and Martha Fischer, clarinetist Linda Bartley, soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn, oboist Kostas Tiliakos, trombonist Mark Hetzler, trumpeter John Aley, cellist Parry Karp, percussionist Anthony Di Sanza, violist Sally Chisholm, and others.

In 2008, the Phoenix Chorale won a Grammy Award for “Best Small Ensemble Performance” for its Chandos CD, “Spotless Rose: Hymns to the Virgin Mary,” which included a work, “Three Latin Motets” by Cecilia McDowall.

Click here for full schedule.
Read a review in The Guardian newspaper of the UK premiere of “Seventy Degrees Below Zero.” 

“Honoring George Crumb at 85”
Sunday, March 22 and Monday, March 23, 2015

George Crumb has been a major force in American composition since the 1960s when his Ancient Voices of Children set to texts by Garcia Lorca provided an evocative and deeply personal response to late modernist serialism. The winner of both a Pulitzer Prize and Grammy, Crumb continues to compose new works, most recently his American Songbooks, that celebrate the magic and mystery of life. Crumb’s music often juxtaposes contrasting musical styles and quotes from pre-existing works, and his use of extended instrumental techniques shows his predilection for new sound colors. Many of Crumb’s works include programmatic, symbolic, mystical and theatrical elements, which are often reflected in his beautiful and meticulously notated scores.

Miranda Cuckson

Miranda Cuckson

Crumb’s 85th birthday provides an opportunity to celebrate this composer through concerts, workshops, and master classes featuring guest artists as well as our own faculty and students. The program will include a performance of the “Crumb Madrigals” by Chicago duo Due East and a concert by New York-based violinist Miranda Cuckson, as well as a performance of “The Violinists in My Life,” written by faculty composer Laura Schwendinger.

Cuckson is highly acclaimed for her performances of a wide range of repertoire, from early eras to the most current creations. In demand as a soloist and chamber musician, she appears in major concert halls, as well as at universities, galleries and informal spaces. She has performed at such venues as the Berlin Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, Miller Theatre, the 92nd Street Y, Guggenheim Museum, and many more.

Nunc (Latin for “now”) was founded in 2007 as “Transit Circle ” by artistic director and violinist/violist Miranda Cuckson, and was renamed and incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 2012. Nunc is devoted to presenting high-caliber performances of music of current, recent and older eras, through distinctive programming that highlights their innovations and contributions.

Due East (Erin Lesser, flutes; Greg Beyer, percussion) actively promotes new music and seeks to expand the flute and percussion duo genre through frequent commissions and premieres. Their first recording, Simultaneous Worlds, is available on Albany Records. Their second recording, Drawn Only Once, is a multi-media CD/DVD now available on New Amsterdam Records. Noted critic Steve Smith gave it a rare 5.0-star rating in Time Out New York, calling it “spellbindingly beautiful.”
Click here for full schedule.
Read a review of Miranda Cuckson in the New York Times.

“Rediscovering Rameau”
Multiple events; check back later for more details.

Jean-Philippe Rameau

Jean-Philippe Rameau.

A year-long festival marking the 250th anniversary of the death of French Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau.
The UW-Madison and community partners will offer a series of public events beginning this fall and culminating in April with two concert performances of Rameau’s one-act opera, Pygmalion, by the Madison Bach Musicians.
Learn more about Rameau here.